Tuesday, June 29, 2010


“Truly there is no such thing as finality.”
Bram Stoker, Dracula (Dr. John Seward)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

This book won the Pulitzer Prize, but I’m not exactly sure why.

It’s hard, reading books like these, years after they were published, long after the ground they first broke has been trod so many times that it’s no longer clear what the fuss was all about.

It was revolutionary, evidently, in 1931, to depict Chinese people as people—as human beings with hopes and desires and a culture all their own—and to tell one of their stories from their own point of view. For this is what The Good Earth does, and to a modern reader, it doesn’t seem like that big a deal. They don’t know who Jesus is, and they treat women like slaves and concubines, but they are people and their drama is our drama because we’re people, too, even if our culture has taught us different values. The Good Earth is unapologetic about its Chinese perspective. It is, in fact, a Chinese novel, written by a woman who had spent her entire life there.

And it is aptly named, for the goodness of the earth is the primary metaphor that drives all of its action. Wang Lung is a farmer who seeks to acquire ever-increasing amounts of land, and he and his family are rewarded with rich bounty as a result—a bounty initially reflected in the life-giving milk his first wife, O-lan, offers to their first son.

But out of the woman’s great brown breast the milk gushed forth for the child, milk as white as snow, and when the child suckled at one breast it flowed like a fountain from the other, and she let it flow. There was more than enough for the child, greedy though he was, life enough for many children, and she let it flow out carelessly, conscious of her abundance. There was always more and more. Sometimes she lifted her breast and let it flow out upon the ground to save her clothing, and it sank into the earth and made a soft, dark, rich spot in the field. The child was fat and good-natured and ate of the inexhaustible life his mother gave him.

But the earth—like the god it metaphorically represents—is fickle, and in times of drought it has no bounty for Wang Lung and the other farmers, and they are forced to go work in the city, living in shanties constructed against the exterior wall of a rich man’s house. The city is a place where wickedness and temptation reign, a place that beguiles men, and therefore the perfect place for the stout of heart like Wang Lung to struggle in order to keep themselves pure.

Most of these ragged men had nothing beyond what they took in the day’s labor and begging, and he was always conscious that he was not truly one of them. He owned land and his land was waiting for him. These others thought of how they might tomorrow eat a bit of fish, or of how they might idle a bit, and even how they might gamble a little, a penny or two, since their days were alike all evil and filled with want and a man must play sometimes, though desperate.

But Wang Lung thought of his land and pondered this way and that, with the sickened heart of deferred hope, how he could get back to it. He belonged, not to this scum which clung to the walls of a rich man’s house; nor did he belong to the rich man’s house. He belonged to the land and he could not live with any fullness until he felt the land under his feet and followed a plow in the springtime and bore a scythe in his hand at harvest. He listened, therefore, apart from the others, because hidden in his heart was the knowledge of the possession of his land, the good wheat land of his fathers, and the strip of rich rice land which he had bought from the great house.

They talked, these men, always and forever of money; of what pence they had paid for a small fish as long as a man’s finger, or of what they could earn in a day, and always at last of what they would do if they had the money which the man over the wall had in his coffers. Every day the talk ended with this:

“And if I had the gold that he has and the silver in my hand that he wears every day in his girdle and if I had the pearls his concubines wear and the rubies his wife wears…”

And listening to all the things they would do if they had these things, Wang Lung heard only of how much they would eat and sleep, and of what dainties they would eat that they had never yet tasted, and of how they would gamble in this great tea shop and in that, and of what pretty women they would buy for their lust, and above all, how none would ever work again, even as the rich man behind the wall never worked.

Then Wang Lung cried out suddenly,

“If I had the gold and silver and the jewels, I would buy land with it, good land, and I would bring forth harvests from the land!”

It’s a lesson that reinforced again and again for Wang Lung. One of the ways he is able to buy so much land is that an old Lord who lives in the city had fallen on bad times and needed to sell off his assets in order to stay solvent.

And the more he mused the more monstrous it seemed that the great and rich family, who all his own life and all his father’s and grandfather’s lives long had been a power and a glory in the town, were now fallen and scattered.

“It comes of their leaving the land,” he thought regretfully, and he thought of his own two sons, who were growing like young bamboo shoots in the spring, and he resolved that on this very day he would make them cease playing in the sunshine and he would set them to tasks in the field, where they would early take into their bones and their blood the feel of the soil under their feet, and the feel of the hoe hard in their hands.

When the land floods and Wang Lung is not able to tend it for a long period of time, he starts spending time in town again, falling in love with a high-priced prostitute. He dotes on her to distraction, until he eventually buys her outright , and brings her home with him, building private courtyards and accommodations for her and her servant. She possesses all of his attention until she ridicules his feebleminded daughter—Wang Lung’s “poor fool”—and he suddenly snaps out of his stupor just as the water finally recedes from the land.

There came a day when summer was ended and the sky in the early morning was clear and cold and blue as sea water and a clean autumn wind blew hard over the land, and Wang Lung woke as from a sleep. He went to the door of his house and he looked over his fields. And he saw that the waters had receded and the land lay shining under the dry cold wind and under the ardent sun.

Then a voice cried out in him, a voice deeper than love cried out in him for his land. And he heard it above every other voice in his life and he tore off the long robe he wore and he stripped off his velvet shoes and his white stockings and he rolled his trousers to his knees and he stood forth robust and eager and he shouted,

“Where is the hoe and where the plow? And where is the seed for the wheat planting? Come, Ching, my friend—come—call the men—I go out to the land!”

Wang Lung’s poor fool is another very interesting part of the novel’s subtext. The introduction to the edition I read describes her as a nameless child, who serves throughout the novel as a symbol of humanity’s essential helplessness, and her few and scattered scenes are all the more poignant when read with that interpretation. Here Buck describes her ignorance of her mother’s impending death.

Only the poor fool knew nothing, and only she smiled and twisted her bit of cloth as she smiled. Yet one had to think of her to bring her in to sleep at night and to feed her and to set her in the sun in the day and to lead her in if it rained. All this one of them had to remember. But even Wang Lung himself forgot, and once they left her outside through a whole night, and the next morning the poor wretch was shivering and crying in the early dawn, and Wang Lung was angry and cursed his son and daughter that they had forgotten the poor fool who was their sister. Then he saw that they were but children trying to take their mother’s place and not able to do it, and he forebore and after that he saw to the poor fool himself night and morning. If it rained or snowed or a bitter wind blew he led her in and he let her sit among the warm ashes that dropped from the kitchen stove.

We are all helpless like this, in our own way—the men in the city as distracted by their baubles and their women as Wang Lung’s poor fool is with her bit of cloth. But Wang Lung has something to save him from this helplessness. Wang Lung has his land.

Then the good land did again its healing work and the sun shone on him and healed him and the warm winds of summer wrapped him about with peace. And as if to cure him of the root of his ceaseless thought of his own troubles, there came out of the south one day a small slight cloud. At first it hung on the horizon small and smooth as mist, except it did not come hither and thither as clouds blown by the wind do, but it stood steady until it spread fanwise up into the air.

The men of the village watched it and talked of it and fear hung over them, for what they feared was this, that locusts had come out of the south to devour what was planted in the fields. Wang Lung stood there also, and he watched, and they gazed and at last a wind blew something to their feet, and one stooped hastily and picked it up and it was a dead locust, dead and lighter than the living hosts behind.

Then Wang Lung forgot everything that troubled him. Women and sons and uncle, he forgot them all, and he rushed among the frightened villagers, and he shouted at them,

“Now for our good land we will fight these enemies from the skies!”

But there were some who shook their heads, hopeless from the start, and these said,

“No, and there is no use in anything. Heaven has ordained that this year we shall starve, and why should we waste ourselves in struggle against it, seeing that in the end we must starve?”

And women went weeping to the town to buy incense to thrust before the earth gods in the little temple, and some went to the big temple in the town, where the gods of heaven were, and thus earth and heaven were worshipped.

But still the locusts spread up into the air and on over the land.

Then Wang Lung called his own laborers and Ching stood silent and ready beside him and there were others of the younger farmers, and with their own hands these set fire to certain fields and they burned the good wheat that stood almost ripe for cutting and they dug wide moats and ran water into them from the wells, and they worked without sleeping. O-lan brought them food and the women brought their men food, and the men ate standing in the field, gulping it down as beasts do, as they worked night and day.

Then the sky grew black and the air was filled with the deep still roar of many wings beating against each other, and upon the land the locusts fell, flying over this field and leaving it whole, and falling upon that field, and eating it as bare as winter. And men sighed and said “So Heaven wills,” but Wang Lung was furious and he beat the locusts and trampled on them and his men flailed them with flails and the locusts fell into the fires that were kindled and they floated dead upon the waters of the moats that were dug. And many millions of them died, but to those that were left it was nothing.

Nevertheless, for all his fighting Wang Lung had this as his reward: the best of his fields were spared and when the cloud moved on and they could rest themselves, there was still wheat that he could reap and his young rice beds were spared and he was content. Then many of the people ate the roasted bodies of the locusts, but Wang Lung himself would not eat them, for to him they were a filthy thing because of what they had done to his land. But he said nothing when O-lan fried them in oil and when the laborers crunched them between their teeth and the children pulled them apart delicately and tasted them, afraid of their great eyes. But as for himself he would not eat.

Nevertheless, the locusts did this for him. For seven days he thought of nothing but his land, and he was healed of his troubles and his fears…

Wang Lung’s god of the land is not one to reward the idle. To earn his bounty one must press his nose to the grindstone as Wang Lung does, struggling every minute of every day to wrest from him his blessings. But the bounty one receives is great indeed—peace, and the ability to face one’s troubles with equanimity.

This spirit of Wang Lung’s is evidently symbolic of the old China that was passing away at the time Buck wrote the story, and the final message of the novel is clear that this fealty to the land will not long survive in China. For Wang Lung’s sons, despite all his efforts to focus them, see no value in the land that their father has spent so much time and money acquiring, and the book ends with them whispering over Wang Lung’s befuddled and elderly head about their plans to sell it as soon as Wang Lung has passed on.

Hmmm. Now that I think about it, maybe it did deserve to win the Pulitzer.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


“One begins to mistrust very clever people when they become embarrassed.”
Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


“Of all men the drunkard is the foulest. The thief when he is not stealing is like another. The extortionist does not practise in the home. The murderer when he is at home can wash his hands. But the drunkard stinks and vomits in his own bed and dissolves his organs in alcohol.”
Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls (Pilar)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Stray (1990)

Mainstream Fiction
3,268 words
Copyright © Eric Lanke, 1990. All rights reserved.

+ + + + + + + + +

Rick had already had a few. It was Friday night and as soon as he had gotten home from work he had started in on the beer. Not enough to get really hammered on, mind you, just a few to get the ball rolling. He stopped after three or four to fix himself a quick dinner of Hamburger Helper. The food sobered him up a little, and after his dinner had settled, he started in on the beer again. He was drinking them slowly because he was running out and he knew that he would have to drive into town to get some more. He didn’t want to be too messed up to drive, so he just sat around the house watching the tube and drinking his beers, trying to work up enough energy to get up, find his coat and car keys, go out to the garage, get in the car, start it, and drive the fifteen miles into town to get some more beer.

So this is how Rick found himself driving the ‘64 Pontiac his father had left him into town, concentrating hard on keeping the green car in its lane. He didn’t think he would have any problems. He was drunk, he knew that because Stan was talking to him, and Stan only talked to him when he got drunk. But Rick didn’t think he was so drunk that he would have any problems getting to the liquor store. And he was right, because the problems didn’t start until after he arrived.

—are we going to get it on tonight ricky—

You bet we are, Stan. Fucking A right we’re going to get it on. As soon as we get home, I’ll go out back and set the traps. But first things first. First I have to be cool and get more beer. If we really want to get it on we are going to need more beer. There are some things that just can’t be done sober.

—i like the beer ricky it makes me feel like there’s nothing we can’t do i like it a lot—

I know you do, Stan. I like it, too.

Rick pulled into the parking lot of Vinnie’s Liquor. It was dark out and the fluorescent parking lights hummed as they lit up the work the snowplows had done to uncover the black asphalt and yellow lines. The lot was empty. Vinnie’s was about to close.

—hope we ain’t too late ricky what are we going to do if we can’t get any more beer that would blow all our plans—

We’re not too late, Stan. We’ve got a couple of minutes. Don’t worry about it.

Rick hopped out of the car, skipped through the slush, and yanked open the glass door to the liquor store.

We made it, Stan. They’re still open.

Vinnie’s was a narrow building with three or four aisles of shelves that ran left and right as Rick entered the store. At the head of the rows, a fat man sat behind a counter on which was set an ancient cash register. Racks of cigarettes hung above the fat man’s head.

Looks like Vinnie has been running over to the fried chicken place across the street, Stan. Last time I saw something that big a bunch of faggots from Greenpeace were trying to push it back into the water.

—the beer ricky don’t forget the beer you got to get really drunk if we are going to go out in the back field and get it on—

“Can I help you?” the fat man who might have been Vinnie wheezed. “I was just about to close up.”

“I just need a case of Leinenkugel’s.” Rick said.

“We got some cold ones in the back. Go grab one.”

Rick nodded and started for the back of the store. His wet shoes squeaked on the dull white tiles of the floor, but the area back by the coolers was carpeted. The back wall of the store was lined with glass-doored coolers stocked with imported and domestic canned beer. In the middle of the wall was a doorway with a sign above it that read ‘Cold Cases,’ and listed brand names and prices. Rick went in. A short hallway took him to a large metal cooler door. He pulled it open and was hit with a blast of cold air.

—look at all the cases ricky they’re piled all the way up to the frigging ceiling you could get lost in here we could get it on every night for a year and not put a dent in this supply—

I believe you’re right, Stan. It certainly is a lot of beer. But where’s the Leinenkugel’s?

Rick carefully walked among the stacks of beer cases and finally found his brand in the far corner of the cooler.

—how many do you think there’ll be tonight ricky how many are you going to have to shoot tonight—

I don’t know, Stan. The traps usually catch quite a few.

—i know ricky but you know what i was thinking remember that time when dad was still alive and a stray dog got caught in one of the traps remember that—

Yes, Stan. I remember that.

—do you think we’ll ever trap another stray i kind of liked it when dad finally shot that stray it was a lot bigger than the gophers we usually caught why didn’t you shoot it ricky—

Did you hear something, Stan?

—no ricky i didn’t hear anything let’s go—

Just a minute, Stan. I think there might be something going down here.

Rick went back to the cooler door without his case of beer and now he could clearly hear what he’d only thought he’d heard before. It was a man’s voice, coming from the front of the store. “Come on you fat bastard,” the voice was saying. “Gimme all the money or I’ll blow your fucking head off!”

—a robbery ricky just like on t.v. something is going down all right what are you going to do—
Rick slowly moved out of the cooler, left the metal door open, and began to creep up the back hallway.

Well, I’ll tell you what, Stan. I know I’m not drunk enough to get it on out in the back field, but you’re here with me, so let’s see if I’m drunk enough to get it on a little right here.

—here you’re going to get it on here ricky what are you going to do—

I’m not exactly sure, Stan. But shut up for a minute. I’ve got to concentrate.

Rick slowly moved out of the dark hall and into the bright lights of the liquor store. A black man was up by the register with a gun pointed at the fat man who might have been Vinnie. The gun was a revolver of some kind, but Rick couldn’t see which. The black man was still shouting for the money, while the fat man who might have been Vinnie took cash out of the drawer and hurriedly put it into a paper sack.

Rick made his way down one of the aisles. As he passed the shelves of liquor, he carefully picked up a bottle of Southern Comfort so as not to clink it against one of its neighbors. He slowly turned it around and held onto its neck, hefting it like a club.

—southern comfort ricky that’s what dad always drank before going out to check the traps remember he gave you a shot of it before you shot your first gopher you must’ve been fifteen or sixteen ricky you thought it tasted horrible but you choked it down anyway remember that ricky—

Yes, Stan. I remember that.

—smooth he called it smooth ricky he said it was smoother than shit he would drink an awful lot of it before going out to check the traps i guess he needed booze to get it on too—

Come on, Stan, buzz off. I’ve got to concentrate.

—okay ricky but those were good times when dad was still alive weren’t they—

Yes, Stan. They really were.

Neither the black man nor the fat man who might have been Vinnie had seen him yet. Rick slowly made his way toward the front of the store with the Southern Comfort bottle held up above his right shoulder. He was walking on his tiptoes, cautiously closing the distance between them. He was trying to breathe silently. He took a step off the carpeted area and onto the dull white tiles.


—oh shit ricky oh shit oh shit there it goes that’s the end of it you just bought the farm—

The black man turned, and as his body moved, time stretched out in Rick’s mind, seconds becoming hours, the black man’s body ever so slowly pivoting to bring his gun to bear on Rick.

Rick, for all the time he seemed to have, was frozen in the terror of the moment and could not will his body to do anything but remain still. But his body seemed to act of its own accord, and he received the vague sensation of his arm slowly descending in a sluggish arc and his fingers delicately releasing the bottle of Southern Comfort.

The black man continued to turn and now his eyes slowly ballooned at the sight of the liquor bottle turning end over end, as it carved a collision course out of the thick air. He instinctively cringed at the sight of the approaching projectile, but his gun arm was still extended before him and the bottle hit the muzzle of the firearm with painstaking ease. In the slow-motion universe that Rick found himself in, the bottle exploded into visible fragments of glass, some of which tore into the flesh of the black man’s hand and some of which spiraled harmlessly off into the air. Nearly all of the liquor, in an amorphous elongated blob, splashed against the black man’s chest and began to soak into the fabric of the coat he was wearing, darkening the garment’s color. Already ducking in an attempt to avoid the inevitable collision, the black man lost his balance and floated to the floor like a feather, his pistol sliding out of his grasp and across the floor.

—the gun ricky get the gun get the gun—

Rick, still a prisoner in his own body, rode along as he started in the direction of the fallen weapon and dove to the floor with the grace of a ballerina on the moon. His fingers slowly closed around the gun and his arms hugged it to his chest. Rick’s body began to lumber to its feet, painfully slowly, Rick certain that the black man would jump him at any dilated moment. But he was unmolested, and in the seeming years it took this action to unfold, Rick regained his feet and pointed the gun at the black man who remained on the floor.

The world resumed its normal pace.

“Holy shit!” the fat man who might have been Vinnie exclaimed. “Holy shit, buddy, you got him. Holy shit!”

Rick was surprised to find himself out of breath and in control of his body once again.

—you sure did do it ricky you really got him this is what i call getting it on ricky you got the gun and you got the nigger trapped—

Yeah. But now what, Stan?

—what are you talking about ricky now we get it on just like dad taught us to do shoot him shoot that nigger dead—

The fat man who might have been Vinnie was dialing the phone. “Holy fucking shit, you got him. I’m going to give you a reward, buddy. Saved me about eight hundred bucks, you did. Christ, you can have two cases of beer.”

The black man on the floor slowly began to rise out of the puddle of Southern Comfort. He worked his way into a squatting position.

“Just keep your ass on the floor,” Rick told him, waving the gun in the black man’s direction.

What do you mean, Stan? I can’t shoot a person.

—this is perfect ricky you got him trapped my god you get to kill someone and write it off as self defense what a set-up go ahead what are you waiting for shoot him—

The fat man who might have been Vinnie was on the phone. “Yeah. Send someone over right now. I mean now. A customer has disarmed the bastard and is holding him at gunpoint. Right now! Vinnie’s Liquor. Thirteen-oh-six State.”

The black man was getting to his feet. “You ain’t gonna shoot me.”

Rick squeezed the trigger and sent a round over the black man’s head. The report was loud and hurt Rick’s ears. The black man sat down quickly.

“Don’t bet on it,” Rick said.

—way to go ricky scare him a little first that’s how dad would’ve done it hell you’ve got six rounds why don’t you shoot him in the leg first—

Stan, I can’t shoot anyone.

—why not ricky the stray was just like the gophers just a little bigger dad said the nigger’s just a little bigger than the stray that’s what dad would say come on ricky you’ve got to shoot him you’ve got him trapped do it ricky let’s get it on—

The fat man who might have been Vinnie was hanging up the phone. “My first time, you know, this is the first time I’ve been held up. Scared the shit out of me, this black boy did, waving that gun in my face. I completely forgot about you in the back there, buddy.”

The black man was holding his bloody hand, sitting in the puddle of Southern Comfort.

I can’t shoot him now, Stan. The cops are on the way and Vinnie or whoever he is is watching us. It’d be murder now.

—the fat guy’ll go along with your story of self defense ricky the nigger tried to hold him up remember do you think fatso gives a shit what happens to him ricky if he had the gun tubby would probably shoot the nigger himself so go ahead ricky shoot that nigger dead—

The fat man who might have been Vinnie was still talking. “Try and rob me, eh? You are going to jail, boy. Cops said they’d be here in five minutes to cuff your black ass.”

The black man seemed to ignore the fat man who might have been Vinnie. He kept his big eyes fixed on Rick’s face. It was wet with sweat. The black man’s face was wet with Southern Comfort.

I ain’t never shot a person, Stan. I don’t think Dad would have liked it.

—we ain’t never got it on this much before ricky and dad never trapped a nigger before did he so shoot him just put the gun at the base of the skull and pull the trigger just like dad showed you ricky shoot him shoot him shoot him—

The black man was slowly getting up again. “I still don’t believe you are going to shoot me. I don’t think you’ve got the guts. You’ve got scared eyes. Think I’ll just get up and walk right on out of here.”

The fat man who might have been Vinnie looked worried.

Rick pulled the hammer of the pistol back with his thumb. “Just sit down, pal.”

—christ ricky he’s asking for it shoot him in the leg shoot him in the foot just shoot him—

Rick’s arm slowly brought the gun to bear on the black man’s left calf.

I don’t know if I can do it, Stan.

“I don’t believe you’ve got the nerve to shoot an unarmed man,” the black man said.

—do it ricky do it do it do it—

The gun went off. It surprised even Rick. He didn’t realize he had pulled the trigger. The bullet hit the floor next to the black man’s left foot and ricocheted into a display of Absolut Vodka. Several bottles smashed in a downpour of glass and liquor.

I can’t do it, Stan. I’m sorry. I just ain’t drunk enough to get it on that much.

The fat man who might have been Vinnie was the only one who actually screamed at the gunshot. The black man jumped at the sound, but when he discovered he wasn’t hit, he straightened his back and fixed his eyes on Rick again.

“Sit the fuck down!” Rick shouted.

—he’s right ricky you ain’t got the guts to shoot him what the hell is wrong with you he’s just another stray he’s just a little bit bigger that’s all blow his head off like dad used to do it’s quick and it puts them out of their misery—

The fat man who might have been Vinnie was crouched down behind the counter, his eyes peering out over the edge.

The black man let a smile spread across his face. “I knew you couldn’t shoot me. You had your chance, chickenshit, but now your time is up.”

Rick could hear sirens in the distance.

—come on ricky don’t let him talk to you like that for christ’s sake show him who’s the boss show him you don’t let no stray talk to you like that—

Rick pulled the hammer back again. “The cops are on the way. Just sit down and wait.”

Please, Stan. Make him do it. Make him sit down. I can’t shoot him. I can’t.

The black man laughed. “Your voice sounds a little weak. Your act is slipping, chickenshit. But that’s okay because you don’t need the act anymore. I know something you don’t. It’s my gun. There were only two bullets in it.

The fat man who might have been Vinnie moaned from under the counter. The sirens were getting louder.

Rick kept the gun leveled at the black man’s chest.

The black man suddenly jumped Rick, and Rick pulled the trigger uselessly four times before they tumbled to the floor. The odor of Southern Comfort slammed its way up Rick’s nostrils and into his brain —smooth ricky smooth as shit— and it paralyzed him for a moment. The black man wrestled the gun out of Rick’s limp grasp and ran out of the liquor store. The sirens seemed to be screaming in Rick’s ears.

I’m sorry, Stan. I couldn’t do it. I’m sorry.

—going to get it on a little right here eh ricky that’s what you said get it on a little right here—

I’m sorry, Stan.

—just like the time with the stray ricky dad gave you the gun and told you what to do but you couldn’t do it could you ricky you just stood there with the gun on the base of the stray’s skull and the stray was whimpering with its leg half tore off in the trap but you just couldn’t do it then either—

I’m sorry, Stan. Christ, I’m sorry.

—i know ricky you were sorry then too dad didn’t know how much you cried that night but i do ricky i was there ricky i heard you whimpering worse than the stray—

Yes, you did, Stan.

The fat man who might have been Vinnie stood up from behind the counter. “Nice going buddy. I just may charge you for all the bottles you broke.”

Rick stayed sprawled out on the floor and closed his eyes. He heard the tires of several police cars screech into the parking lot. He didn’t feel much like getting it on anymore.

+ + + THE END + + +